Recently, I’ve been seeing many articles that claim our generation, Generation Z, has the lowest drug usage or at least lower interest levels out of the past couple generations according to various “studies.” To me, this seems like a painfully idealistic sentiment. The concept of wanting to put hope into the new generations based on objective mistakes of past generations is more problematic than it may seem on the surface. This is especially true regarding the specific example of drugs and alcohol in our generation.
The reason I say these claims aren’t exactly true are because it doesn’t seem like there are lowered levels of use or even interest in drugs and alcohol. How can faceless scientists predict our future actions? We’re not even legal yet there are all these articles about how we’re predicted to use the least substance into our adulthood. The kind of data that would prove these claims cannot be gathered easily due to the fluid way teens change their minds. Considering the amount of stress and changes this age group endures, it’s hard to grasp any generality of our values. The oldest people in our generation are only just turned 18 within the past year or so, meaning there is no way those kinds of studies can be conducted accurately.
It’s important for me to acknowledge that these claims are almost a compliment since drugs and alcohol are objectively bad. But it is strange to have adults put expectations on studies that measure something so prone to change. In my opinion, the big word I hear in context of drugs and alcohol in relation to our generation is “experimented.” It’s easy to argue that this is a better mentality showing our generation’s potential to exceed past expectations with these meager teenage infatuations. After all, it’s better to just try something once to get the gist to fulfill curiosity once and for all. I would argue that this kind of thinking is naive. If our generation were so against drugs and alcohol we would feel no need to even try them. That may sound harsh, but if someone is morally against something you don’t usually see them trying said thing they’ve already decided is wrong The word “experimented” justifies illegal behavior, making it sound temporary, contrary to the supposed ideals of our generation that were proven by experimental evidence. Whether it is temporary or not, why are we given a cop out? Is it to still somehow fulfill the expectations we have already broken? Why are actions that are wrong molded to fit the expectations that have been crafted for our generation? If a child decides to do something illegal, they should not be given a cop out because in their heart they know it was wrong/ That’s exactly the point. Saying someone experimented with drugs implies that they didn’t know better, and after all of our health classes, I know that is not true, at least in Millburn/Short Hills.
I’m not sure how our generation will turn out, however I don’t think we have many revolutionary values that will change our world with something so fundamental to upper teenage/adult culture. We have the potential to do great things and there are certainly great individuals. Claims like the ones I described above can counter that potential, giving us the entitlement that comes with being better and the values that come with being worse. This conflicting rhetoric used to describe Generation Z could possibly deter that deeply desired promise of a new, smarter generation.